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The Vision Pro needs apps. Now is not a good time for Apple to be at odds with developers.

Apple Vision Pro
Apple's Vision Pro headset goes on sale in the US on February 2.Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
  • Apple will make its biggest hardware launch in a decade once the Vision Pro goes on sale this week.

  • As with any big hardware launch, Apple will need developers onside to help make it a success.

  • But the company has angered those very developers with recent changes to the App Store.

When Apple launches the Vision Pro on Friday, it could really do with developers lapping it up.

Since introducing its App Store in 2008 with 500 apps, the company has depended on developers to come up with apps that help turn products like the iPhone, Mac, and iPad into a consumer hit. Apps now number almost two million.

The $3,500 headset will mark a new era of uncertainty for the company once it goes on sale in the US this week. It's an era in which it will attempt to gain traction for mixed reality technologies that are yet to hit the mainstream.

Given the price tag, Apple watchers aren't expecting the Vision Pro to fly off the shelves immediately. Some analysts expect unit shipments to max out at 350,000 this year – a figure that will add little to the $383 billion Apple made in revenue in 2023.

To spur future consumer sales then, Apple really needs developers onside to help make the Vision Pro a success. They'll need to be ready and willing to build for the new "spatial computing" paradigm Apple wants to popularize.

Right now, though, developers are infuriated with the company.

'A masterclass in distortion'

Apple Vision Pro being demoed at an Apple Store.
Apple Vision Pro customers will be able to go through a 1:1 demo with sales staff when they first receive the headset.Apple

Apple made a bunch of changes to its App Store in the European Union last week that developers say hurts them.

The changes, implemented to comply with the bloc's Digital Markets Act, allow third-party digital stores onto Apple's operating systems. In theory, it means developers aren't strictly limited to releasing their apps to Apple users through its own App Store.

Reasons cited by developers for wanting to skirt Apple's App Store are plenty but primarily relate to a 30% commission that Apple has historically taken on any apps that are bought and sold through its digital marketplace.

That's why the second change introduced by Apple is a cut on that commission from 30% to 17%, plus a 3% fee for payment processing.

On the surface, these changes appear to be wins for developers. They were made, after all, in response to laws that designated the App Store's usual way of operating as unfair and anticompetitive.

But developers have been quick to note how the changes come with a lot of strings attached that make life very difficult for them.

Spotify boss Daniel Ek said last week to suggest that the new rules were a "masterclass in distortion" thanks to a new fee structure introduced by Apple that "looks attractive on the surface but has potentially even higher fees" for developers to cough up.

The fee structure Ek mentioned specifically refers to a new €0.50 fee that must be paid by developers for each "first annual install per year over a 1 million threshold."

"In Apple's 'new' world, the fees could be astronomical. Picture this: A popular free app with tens or hundreds of millions EU users, now faces a tax on every download and update annually," Ek wrote in an X post.

Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney, meanwhile, pointed to fine print that shows how Apple will still control which third-party apps are allowed to compete with it.

"They could block Epic from launching the Epic Games Store and distributing Fortnite through it, for example, or block Microsoft, Valve, Good Old Games, or new entrants," Sweeney wrote.

Developers souring on Apple is not something the company will want ahead of its biggest product launch in a decade.

Apple has said that the changes comply with the DMA, and that it has "created new tools for developers, such as a fee calculator and developer documentation" to help them understand the new policies.

Apps currently being built for the Vision Pro won't be impacted immediately by the rule changes in the EU either, as the Vision Pro will only go on sale in the US to begin with.

However, frustrations shared by the likes of Ek and Sweeney suggest developers won't be placated so easily once it does go on sale there.

More broadly, it puts Apple and developers at odds with each other at a moment when Apple really needs apps for Vision Pro. As Bloomberg's Mark Gurman reported last week, roughly 230 native apps are ready for release.

If Apple wants more, it may need to address developer concerns about App Store changes more directly.

Read the original article on Business Insider